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Friday, July 10, 2009

Brazil’s First Network of Electric Charging Stations Will Be Solar-Powered

Motorcycle on road

The first of many roadside electric charging stations in Brazil is set to be installed in the Barra de Tijuca neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, and it’ll be solar-powered.

The neighborhood was chosen because it has the highest number of electric motorcycles certainly in circulation. The battery charging point will serve a mainly symbolic purpose at first, “awakening environmental awareness by showing people that it is possible to use energy without harming the environment,” said spokesperson Edimar Machado.

Brazil has been a worldwide leader in reducing the impact of the transportation sector on the environment, with 90% of new cars sold in the country being flex-fuel– capable of running on ethanol or gasoline in any proportion. Now the hope is that they can also lead the world in infrastructure for electric vehicles. Once they become more financially viable, Machado hopes to have an electric charging station positioned every 30km across the country.

That could soon allow every electric motorcyclist the capability to travel the entire length of Brazil’s major roadways if they wanted, even if their battery length is only around 40km, like most of the bikes currently in circulation there. Machado also suggested that used batteries could be exchanged for already-charged ones at the stations for the same price as a full charge, in case roadsters can’t wait around for the standard 4 hours it takes to charge the batteries. That would make the time it takes to “fill up” your electric vehicle no longer than it would take to fill up a gas tank.

Even better, the charging stations will generate their electricity from solar energy. The charging point captures solar energy by means of an array of 28 photovoltaic panels that generate 184 volts of direct current, which is transformed into triphasic alternating current. Output is at 110 or 220 volts [1]. And on days when there isn’t much sunlight, or at night, the stations could still derive electricity from the grid system.

The Brazilian Electric Vehicle Association says the market for electric vehicles is already growing by about 50 percent a year, and with new charging stations located conveniently around town that number is expected to increase dramatically. They also project that electric vehicles will consume barely three to five percent of the country’s total energy in 2030, meaning as the system expands it shouldn’t be a significant strain on the country’s electricity. Meanwhile, car fuel consumption will be reduced by 10 percent.

Although that nationwide system of stations is still far from practical, the implementation of this first station is symbolic of what can be envisioned with the right political will and incentive.

Source: IPS News

Image Credit: Diego_3336 on Flickr under a Creative Commons License